Monday, December 04, 2006

Casino Royale

[Caution: Reading this before watching the show may distort your expectations. Parts of the plot are revealed below.]

I watched the latest installment in the series of 007 flicks over the weekend. Casino Royale…Frankly speaking, I was expecting something a bit more, uh, royal, and grand. I have no idea of the original manuscript of the story, but I thought it was a bit of a letdown to have to endure such lengthy scenes around the gambling table. Hello? They’re in the
Bahamas, and all they do is spend time indoors!? They should have had more outdoor scenes, boat chases, jet-ski chases, underwater scenes. But Bond’s nemesis was a finance guy, so I guess he was dealing more with virtual dollars zipping around in the global banking cyber-network rather than real-world beat-‘em-up brute force. Perhaps the producers and director were trying to portray another side of Bond, to keep up with the times.

There were some highlights:

1. The opening chase sequence was extremely impressive. The Parkour-inspired stunts were incredible, stretching the limits of the human body. There should have been another one like that midway or at the end.

2. Eva Green was simply stunning as Ms Vesper Lynd (it goes without saying, of course). Pardon my failing memory of previous Bond girls, but this lady had some pretty sensible dialogue too. She wasn’t there just for decoration, although I couldn’t figure out whether her moment of weakness in the shower was her really breaking down emotionally, or just part of her mask of deceit to dupe Bond.

3. It was interesting to observe the gender clashes between Mr Bond and Ms Lynd. The steely cold guy with a license to kill versus the gorgeous and smart lady accountant. I was trying to picture the real life equivalents of such guy-girl interactions. However, the cruel twist to the plot towards the end smashed all my analyses of the heart and soul of the two unsung lovebirds. Why did she choose to die? Can a woman really have such a two-faced heart? Was she really blackmailed into deceiving and betraying Bond, or was she just plain cold, greedy and treacherous?

4. To give some credit to Bond, I’m pleased that he reveals a softer, more vulnerable side of himself. Of course, a man rarely changes in character just like that, overnight. Unless it’s a “Damascus road” experience, it’s more often than not a lifetime transformation process (I know, I'm too serious here). But, back to Bond, I’d say he really bared his true self, though, in my opinion, a bit too much too soon, and the lines were were kinda corny at times. The relationship developed way too quickly. But then, this is a movie with a compressed timeline and unrealistic plot, no?

5. Daniel Craig was OK as Bond. I hear some ladies are swooning over him, especially the scene where he emerges from the surf clad in nothing but his blue swimming trunks. Well, I don't see the big deal over it. I think he would have looked better in floral boardshorts.


But I have a few axes to grind with the storyline. In no particular order I list them below. Please read with a pinch of salt.

1. Firstly, Bond breaks all the rules of CPR. The medical and first aid people should be speaking out against this. It’s such a bad example. I mean, how can Bond just give up like that after 2 cycles of chest compressions and breaths? He should continue until the ambulance arrives. Besides, the poor lady was underwater for just a couple of minutes. She definitely had a high chance of survival. Oh well… ;P

2. I am appalled that airbags did not deploy in the Aston Martin during the crash. Yeah sure, the car is equipped with a defribrillator, but no airbag?!? Someone please remind me not to buy Aston Martin. Oh, and did I say the defibrillator has a serious design flaw in its wire connectors?

3. Mr Bond somehow manages to evade a hail of bullets from 2 machine guns! Just like in a Hong Kong cop show. He’s not even hit by splinters. OK, let’s get real here. I know he’s the good guy, but surely… ah, forget it.

4. Daniel Craig’s enunciation was a little difficult to catch at times. Maybe it was encrypted. I couldn’t figure out what he was saying on some of the longer lines. His accent didn’t sound really British. I caught him pronouncing “either” as “ee-ther”, which is Amerian pronunciation. Am I the only one with this problem?

5. There was hardly any car chase. In the only semblance of a chase, Bond miraculously manages to flip the car on a straight road. Again, is there a serious flaw in the Aston Martin? Where’s the ABS? Was he using retreaded tyres?!

6. I have no idea how the building collapsed on itself. What in the world were those tanks that burst open and gushed water after Bond shot them? Are Venician building foundations that weak? And the building flattened down nicely on itself without hitting any neighbouring structures. Beats me.

7. When the building collapsed, the surrounding water was still crystal clear! With all that stuff crashing down, there’s hardly any debris or mud or sediment in the water. The water should have been so murky that Bond can’t find his way underwater.

8. Bond makes the Africans look like incompetent clowns. I found that too stereotypical.

9. The show glamourizes and tacitly approves of gambling (which happens to be a major cause of social ills, family breakups and suicides).

10. There was a lot of gratuitous violence... oh wait, isn't that an oxymoron?


I have some suggestions for improvement (also to be taken with a generous sprinkling of salt):

1. All the characters should wear name tags. This will make it easier for me to follow the plot and to track who is who.

2. As I said above, we need more outdoor, sun, sea, sand and surf scenes and less indoor casino. But then, it wouldn’t be Casino Royale, would it?

3. Ms Lynd shouldn’t die. She should realize the eternal, undying love Bond has for her (yeah, right), and repent there and then, after being pulled out of the water by Bond. They should embrace and sob in each other’s arms. Then go off to the nearest cathedral and get married properly. Then she should glance over coyly, bat her eyelashes and ask Bond, “May I call you Jimmy, just between the two of us?” And they lived happily ever after. Uh-huh.

4. Bond should use Nokia instead of Sony Ericsson. And Vesper should use Canon or Nikon cameras. Yeah I know, just because it's a Sony Pictures production...

5. The terrorist financier should go around “earning” money by a more realistic method. Who in their right mind would use gambling to multiply their loot? Why bank on a game of chance when there are other methods where you can be in control of your finances? They should open an Ah Long business, or start a restaurant, or deal in pirated DVDs, or hijack a shipment of computer chips to make some fast bucks. They should venture into territory unfamiliar to James Bond.

In conclusion

James Bond typifies everything a man should not be. Proud, lustful, greedy (see 1 John 2:16). But on the flipside, he’s highly inspiring too. He’s a man of strength. He’s smart. He’s focused. He’s patriotic. He’s passionate. Too bad his ego gets in the way, and his passion is spent in the wrong direction. He just can’t keep his hands off pretty women. But at least he’s transparent about it!? Yeah, Bond is what just about every man daydreams he were, but knows he shouldn’t be. This does not mean that men should aspire to be sissies, but that the energy and passion should be directed in the right way at the right things.

It’s sad to see that Bond reverts to his cold, stone-walled self at the end. What happened to forgiveness? Couldn’t he go for some counseling and forgive Vesper. He needs to forgive himself too. He needs to let go and move on, not move back to his previous self. I would suggest that he read the Bible, hear the gospel, believe in Jesus and start attending church. There are many good Bible-believing, Christ-centred, community-building, mission-minded, Spirit-filled churches in London. :)

Yup, the greatest temptations men face are Money, Power and Sex (but not necessarily in that order), as Richard Foster aptly titled his book (which I should read, but have only managed to browse through thus far). In Malay, it’s the three “ta’s”: Harta, Takhta, Wanita. But lest I be guilty of being a hypocrite and having a judgmental spirit, I need to remind myself that I could easily fall into the same trap too. It doesn’t help that movies tend to sugarcoat immorality with humour and glamour such that it tastes deceptively good and we swallow it unwittingly. Ingesting too much of it desensitizes the conscience.

As for the portrayal of women, I think I’ll let the women speak for themselves… does Vesper aptly reflect the real-life woman, or is she just another silver screen stereotype?

Or am I just over-analysing the whole thing? ;P

It’s just a movie, right? Or is it?

p/s I'm bad at following movie storylines, so please correct me if I got any of the details wrong. Thank you. :)


pumpkin said...

Wow! Didn't realise you were such a movie buff ;)

I enjoyed your analyses of the main characters.... indeed money, power and glamour are very real temptations which women face as well. May the Lord guard our hearts from such temptation and let us not fall into believing that we are impervious to these.

Have a great wkend ahead!

HL said...

Movie buff? Er, not really. I do enjoy good movies, but "good" is kinda subjective. I just had a bone to pick with James Bond. Haha.

nicole said...

wah.... you should be a movie critic. This is one enjoyable blog :)

HL said...

Glad you enjoyed it. But I tend to be too critical! :P